Copper is a precious metal these days. While top miners such as Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc are selling anything from iron ore and coal to agricultural assets to pay down debt amid a rout in commodity prices, they’re loath to part with the best copper resources.
That’s because it’s one of the few metals expected to be in shortage by the end of this decade as cooling investment means not enough mines are built. Those with cash to burn are taking an interest, with copper a focus for miners and financiers gathering this week for an annual industry conference in Chile, the world’s biggest producer.
“Copper is the most desirable commodity,” said Michael Scherb, founder of mining investor Appian Capital Advisory LLP in London, whose colleagues are attending the meeting in Santiago. “We are looking very hard at global copper projects.”
It’s a sign of the times that Rio Tinto Group, the second-largest miner, surprised many by appointing the head of copper as its next chief executive officer. BHP Billiton Ltd., the biggest, is also focusing on the commodity as it seeks investments after adding an extra $10 billion into its coffers by cutting dividends and capital spending.
Key to Strategy
One obstacle for buyers is that even indebted miners want to hold onto what has become the crown jewel of industrial metals. Anglo American, the first major London-based miner cut to a junk rating by credit-assessment companies, insists it will hold on to the giant Los Bronces and Collahuasi copper mines.
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